Total Eclipse of the Sun: March 7, 1970

April 8, 2024 will be an exciting day in the Quad Cities as we are expecting the first solar eclipse in our area in 54 years. We are expected to get an 83.70% view of the full eclipse at 1:58 p.m. that day.

The last time a full solar eclipse was visible in the Quad Cities was March 7, 1970. Winter was lingering that year, but the weather was predicted to be in our favor with partly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-40s. A nice break from the colder temperatures and snow that had lingered on. With an early Easter (March 29th), there was most likely hope of warmer weather soon.

While most people likely hoped for clear weather to see the eclipse outside, there was another way to see it live. The March 7th eclipse was the first one to be broadcast live on national television. Not only was it to be live, but CBS news broadcast the event in color! As most television shows were still in black and white, this was an exciting event. It was even encouraged to watch it on television over watching in person to protect your eyes from sun damage.

Slightly less than half of U.S. households had color televisions in 1970. If you wanted to buy one from Long’s TV Sales and Service at 2139 W. 3rd Street in Davenport you might be able to find a sale on new color sets. A 14″ screen portable color television was on sale for $257 ($2,042.87 using an inflation calculator for 2024) while a large 23″ screen color television was going for $458.88 ($3,647.59 using the same calculator).

The Times-Democrat newspaper. March 6, 1970. Pg. 7

The Times-Democrat Newspaper was full of eclipse details leading up to the event. One main concern, as previously mentioned, was damage to eyes from looking directly at the sun. Besides watching it on television, other suggestions were to visit the John Deere Planetarium at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois or making homemade devices to enjoy the eclipse while protecting your eyes. The eclipse was to start at 11:10 a.m. with full coverage lasting three minutes starting at 12:25 p.m. The event would end at 1:37 p.m. according to the newspaper.

The Times-Democrat. March 5, 1970. Pg. 32.

The weather held out with relatively clear skies and those who ventured out marveled to newspaper reporters about the experience in the March 8th Tines-Democrat edition. About 275 people did visit the planetarium and were able to view the eclipse. Many were surprised that due to the Quad-Cities location, the eclipse did not cause the area to darken as they expected. Dr. Melbert Peterson, from Augustana, said that at least 75% coverage was needed to have darkness fall while locally the area only saw 70% coverage.

The Times-Democrat. March 51970. Pg. 2

While the solar eclipse of March 7, 1970 was the last eclipse in our area for the twentieth century; we have blogged before about the last eclipse in the Quad Cities from the nineteenth century which took place on August 7, 1869. This blog, found here, features not only a solar eclipse, but the appearance of a mysterious wild boy as well!

We are all looking forward to the April 8, 2024. The Davenport Public Library will be hosting an Eclipse Watch Party at our Eastern branch from 12:30 – 3:30. All branches of the library will also be handing out solar eclipse glasses at the customer service desks. Glasses started being handed out on March 1st and are while supplies last so get yours today! For more information on the party or glasses, please click here.

As for the eclipse of March 7, 1970, the Quad Cities was soon covered in cold temperatures and snow when a late-winter storm hit the area on March 9th. It really was a lucky break in the weather that allowed the eclipse to be viewed. The interest in outer space was not disappearing from local headlines though. There was already great interest mounting for Apollo 13’s return to the moon scheduled only 35 days later on April 11, 1970.

(posted by Amy D.)

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